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Sitkoh River restoration project under way
Published: 06/14/2012 17:52:00
Updated: 06/14/2012 17:53:41

The Sitkoh River on Chichagof Island, about 12 miles west of Angoon, is a typical southeast Alaskan river. And like many rivers in southeast, the area it passes through has been subject to clear-cut logging in the past. The Sitkoh River is also a major salmon habitat feeding into large subsistence, commercial and recreational fisheries. The straight logging roads have caused the river to deviate from its natural path, resulting in shallow water without the pools Salmon need to live and breed.

Perry Edwards is a member of the Ecosystems Staff at the US Forest Service. He told us about the problem. "This logging road is not prime salmon habitat; It's wide, it's very shallow, there are no pools, there are no spawning gravels. And also there's no good rooting mass to hold the banks in place. So what we created was an area where we have a point-source sediment source that's happening year after year, it's lined with red alders that are very low rooting strength. They're not going to provide any large wood to the stream which creates pools and sorts out spawning gravels and that kind of material. And it was something that was creating more sediment, more erosion, year after year."

The three hundred and eighteen thousand dollar restoration project aims to help the river recover quickly by returning it to its natural course and removing the disruptions caused by the road.

Healthy salmon habitats are critical to the areas according to Wayne Owen, the Alaska Director of Wildlife, Fisheries, Ecology, Watershed & Subsistence at the US Forest Service: "Fish is the lifeblood, the economic base of Southeast Alaska. I like to tell people that Southeast Alaska is the "Fish Basket" of North America, we produce more fish than any other part of the country. In Southeast Alaska, last year alone, there was a billion - that's B, Billion - dollars' worth of economic activity associated with all forms of fisheries. That's commercial fisheries, sport fisheries and the subsistence fishery."

Scott Harris is the Restoration Coordinator at the Sitka Conservation Society, another major partner on the project. The group works on many projects to improve stewardship of the land. "As we as communities try to, are always in the process of learning how to become more sustainable, and have more longevity being surrounded by this huge national forest, this huge treasure. So learning how to become better stewards of this landscape and restore where necessary, and sustainably and responsibly manage and utilize resources that all a part of that" he said.

By: Mikko Wilson -